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Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams

Chapter 3 – 2017 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams

Any list of the masters of bluegrass should surely include Paul Williams and Doyle Lawson. They were there in the early years, members of Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, and they have carved their own paths on the thousands of stages where they have entertained audiences over the decades. Recent years have found them performing together again, and this CD comes after Williams' retirement from touring. They made use of the skills of Joe Mullins, a great entertainer in his own right and the son of another legend of the early years. His banjo playing is always on the money, and he understands when to play and, often overlooked, when not to. Though Lawson is usually seen with a mandolin in his hands, he is also an excellent guitar player as he shows here while Williams adds mandolin.

Although bluegrass purists shudder at the idea of a steel guitar on the stage, Lawson has proven open to innovation, and this collection of songs embraces country as well as bluegrass music. There was a time when people didn't see a great distinction and they move from style to style with ease. Listen to David Johnson, a premier steel player, kick off Justin Tubb's "Big Fool of the Year" and, if you love classic country, you'll stop in your tracks to sing along. If bluegrass is your first love, play "What Am I Gonna Do With This Broken Heart" and listen to Josh Swift on Dobro and Mullins on banjo as they back Williams' on vocals. At age 82, his voice is still excellent as is his pen: he composed this track (writing under his given name, Paul M. Humphrey) as well as "Abigail" and "I'm Getting Over You." "Abigail" is the touching story of a man who has lost his wife of almost six decades as he questions God, asking why He took her. Williams' second career has been bluegrass gospel, and he ends this story with that gospel touch as the man trusts God's choice as he prays. His third number is pure country and should have made the Top 10 if it had been released a half-century ago.

Other selections range from the Delmore Brothers ("I'm Sorry I Caused You To Cry") to the Louvin Brothers ("I Feel Better Now'). They stop by the cousin to Pat Boone's big hit with Buddy Starcher's "I'll Still Write Your Name In the Sand" and include a Dolly Parton number with a Stephen Burwell fiddle break, "Til Death Do Us Part." As you listen to these songs, you find yourself hoping these two great never stop making great music together.